Nancy M. DeWeese was born 2/2/1842 in Missouri, where her parents, Louis DeWeese and Rachel Matilda McKinney DeWeese, had moved. Her father died when she was 5, and her mother took her and her two sisters, Jane Elizabeth (1837-1889) and Mary (1844-1929) back to North Carolina. In a 1957 interview printed in the Tri-County News, Nancy reminisced about the family’s journey, including crossing the Mississippi River with their wagons on a flatboat.
Nancy’s mother Rachel, the daughter of Charles and Elizabeth Lowery McKinney, settled back amongst her relatives in the Blue Ridge, remarrying in 1850 to Alexander Lowery. Nancy left home to work for Daniel Washburn, whom she said “was counted a good liver in those days.” She earned 50 cents per week for working in the fields bringing in the crops and in the house carding and spinning wool and weaving cloth for clothing and bedding.
“I worked 2 years for Mr. Washburn and saved 40 dollars. I thought I would marry and see if times got any better for me.” Nancy married William A. Buchanan, the son of Joseph Leonard and Elizabeth Hollifield Buchanan, on 11/11/1860. He was 21 years old, “had a very good education and was teaching school,” and she was 18.
They had only been housekeeping a few months when the Civil War began, and in July 1861 Buchanan enlisted, as most young local men did. He served 4 years “in that awful war,” Nancy recalled, Company B of the 22nd NC Infantry, with an occasional furlough and another time home recuperating from wounds received at the Battle of Seven Pines in May 1862. “When he got home to stay his health was gone, he never was well anymore. He taught school. I had to work right on to raise my children.”
Nancy and Bill Buchanan had 9 children; their 2 oldest, Melissa Martha and Alfred A. “Bud,” were born while their father was away in the War. Younger children were John Henry, William P., James D., Daniel Lindsey, Mary Jane, Joseph N. and Lula A. William and James died of diphtheria at ages 5 and 3. Bud Buchanan “had to walk on crutches all his life” and died at just 33. Youngest daughter Lula, Mrs. Buchanan said, “was an invalid all her life. I had to nurse and carry her 21 years, then she died.” Another son died working on the railroad in Rutherford County.
The Buchanan home was in what is now Little Switzerland, near the entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Chalet. The cabin was at first one room, later expanded to 3 rooms with a “large fireplace and L-shaped porch.” Husband William A. Buchanan died in 1903, aged 64, and, Nancy explained, “I stayed at the old home by myself as long as I could housekeep and worked and had plenty to live on. I was so old and lonely I broke up housekeeping and went to live with my youngest daughter.” Mother Nancy Buchanan died 8/26/1935, at age 93; written on her death certificate as principal cause of death is “just worn out.” She was interred in the Buchanan Burial Ground in Little Switzerland, along with her husband and several of her children.